The long statewide ballot, with 17 different measures, demonstrates many things wrong with California-style direct democracy.

Here’s another one: we put referenda last, when they should be first.

The terms referendum and initiative are often used interchangeably, especially by out-of-state media (yes, I’m looking at you, Washington Post). But they are different. A referendum is a public vote on a law passed by the legislature. It has gone through a process of hearings and review, and deserves more respect than an initiative, which is a proposed law or constitutional amendment that is drafted privately and outside the legislative process.

Since referenda are different, they should be placed separately on the ballot. Instead, they are by rule listed along with initiatives – and they come last. That’s why the referendum among the 17 measures, on the state’s ban on single-use plastic bags, comes last, at Prop 67.

That may be a significant disadvantage for a referendum. The tendency of voters on ballot measures is to vote no—since that preserves the status quo. But in referenda, the status quo is the ‘yes” side—you have to vote yes to preserve the law that’s being considered. And with referenda at the end of the long ballot, voters may get tired and vote no (that’s the fear at least, though whether voters behave this way is much debated).

The reform should be easy. Give referenda distinct ballot spots separate from initiatives, with different numbering. And put referenda before the initiatives. At the very least, Prop 67 this November should be Prop 51.